COVID-19: New UN alliance to stave off ‘catastrophic food crisis’

Proposed by Italy and led by Food and Agriculture Organization, the alliance aims to increase resilience of agricultural food systems, ensure global food access

By Susan Chacko
Published: Monday 09 November 2020

The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has pulled food systems apart, threatening food security and nutrition. At least 690 million people went hungry in 2019, according to the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report, 2020. Now, the pandemic could tip over 130 million more people into chronic hunger by the end of 2020, according to the report.

Taking cognisance of the catastrophic food crisis and the urgency to tackle it, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations launched a Food Coalition on November 5, 2020. FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu virtually inaugurated it along with the Prime Minister of Italy, Giuseppe Conte, and the Deputy Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Carola Schouten.

The two countries have already pledged and delivered financial resources and technical support to the coalition. Italy has supported the alliance with an initial contribution of $1.2 million.

Proposed by Italy and led by FAO, the global alliance aims to help countries get back on track to achieve the UN-mandated Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, especially the ones on ending hunger and poverty. More than 30 countries have already expressed interest in joining the coalition.

The alliance would work as a network of networks and a multi-stakeholder coalition for a unified global action to support measures to ensure food access and increase the resilience of agricultural food systems in response to COVID-19.

“No leader should allow a world overflowing with food to let people be hungry. We need to redouble our efforts and reinforce our traditional commitment to help the most vulnerable,” said Conte.

Global food prices continued to rise in October for the fifth successive month, according to the FAO Food Price Index also released November 5. Even though the forecast for global cereal production was low, the output for 2020 was still expected to reach an all-time high.

Working of the Food Coalition

COVID-19 could add up to 132 million more people to the ranks of the world’s undernourished in 2020 — a grave challenge that the pandemic poses to the eradication of hunger by 2030.

The FAO Director-General said countries must make sure that food value chains continue to function well and that the agricultural labour force and poor consumers, both rural and urban are not pushed beyond the poverty line.

The alliance involves a devoted trust fund and a web-based hub allowing participants to access a basket of project-focused information and data, as well as the funding and types of assistance needed for many on-the-ground projects.

The Food Coalition would work towards:

  • Mobilising resources, expertise and innovation
  • Advocating for a joint and coordinated COVID-19 response
  • Promoting dialogue and exchange of knowledge and expertise among countries
  • Working towards solution-oriented plans and programmes
  • Expanding international cooperation and partnership for a longer term impact

 “COVID-19 has taught us that we need to increase the resilience of agri-food systems, to be ready to minimise risks and cope with them as they occur,” said FAO Chief Economist Maximo Torero.

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